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Making sweet potato chips and flour

Sweet potato is a popular food in many parts of Eastern Africa. It is a drought,


hardly and can grow in marginal areas, thus contributing to improved food
security. The young leaves and vines can be consumed as vegetables or fed to
livestock.

During bumper harvests, farmers often sell sweet potatoes at throw-away prices.
Losses after harvesting are high due to perishing. In some communities in Eastern
Africa, sweet potatoes are preserved for the dry season by sun-drying to make
amukeke dried sweet potato chips. The dried chips are boiled and mashed with
beans, milled or pounded to make flour, which can be mixed with either millet or
cassava flours to make stiff porridge.

Some facts about dried sweet potato chips and flour

Any sweet potato variety can be dried to make chips, which can then be
milled into flour

Dried sweet potato chips can be stored for up to six months when packaged
in airtight, strong, black plastic bags

Sweet potato flour is used to make doughnuts and pancakes

Flour made from the chips can also be used to make high-value flours by
mixing with millet, maize or soybean flour. These mixed flours are used to
make porridge and baby foods, which are easily digestable.

Some bakeries are already using new flour mixes to make bread and cakes

The poultry feed industry is showing interest in using orange-fleshed


chips in their feeds to improve yolk colour and vitamin A content of
eggs.

Requirements for making sweet potato chips and flour

Mature sweet potato roots. On average, 4 kg of fresh sweet potato roots


give about 1 kg of dried sweet potato chips

A clean area, ideally a room with raised working surfaces, such as tables not
on the ground

Large plastic containers, preferably 10 to 20 litre buckets with lids

Supply of clean water

Ideally, a manual or motorized sweet potato chipper for chopping or slicing


Raised open platform for air drying, or ideally a solar dryer placed in
a clean area in full sunshine.
Procedure for making sweet potato chips and flour

Step 1: Choosing the roots

Use any sweet potato variety

The roots should be undamaged and mature - here to four months for the
early
maturing varieties and five to six months for the late maturing varieties.

Ste 2: Washing

Wash the sweet potatoes in clean water in large buckets,


changing water as frequently as required

Alternatively, you can ash the roots in a sweet potato


drum washer when processing large quantities to speed-up
the process

Do not peel the roots because the peel is rich in nutrients

Step 3: Draining

After washing, drain by placing the sweet potatoes on a raised, perforated rack.

Step 4: Chipping or slicing

Chip the washed sweet potatoes to uniform size (3-6 mm thick)

You can slice them manually with a sharp knife or


use a manual or motorized chipper to speed-up
the process.

Step 5: Drying

Sweet potato chips should be evenly spread on a raised platform,


preferably on a clean black plastic sheet, to sun dry under maximum
sunshine for about six to eight hours it is best to do this during the hot,
dry season

To ensure high quality chips, solar dryers can be used. A modified solar
dryer, called a hybrid solar dryer has an additional source, such as
charcoal and can be used to dry chips.

Chips should be dried until they are brittle

If drying in the open, cover chips with netting to keep off flies and birds

Pack chips or continue processing to flour

Step 6: Milling
Mill dried chips to flour using a hammer mill (village posho mill)
Step 7: Packaging and labeling

Pack dried chips or flour in strong (thick gauge) black polyethylene bags.
Flour can be packaged in 2 kg packs for distribution to shops and other
retail outlets.

Label product to state source, date of manufacture and expiry date (after six
months).

Place bags of dried chips or flour in card board cartoons to protect them from
light

Step 8: Storing

Store in a cool, dry place off the ground, preferably on pallets or raised
surfaces.

Flour can be stored for six months

What can go wrong?

Problem What are the causes How is the problem


corrected?
Brown or discoloured chips Drying not complete due to Slice the chips into uniform
sizes (3-
Non-uniform chip sizes 6 mm thick)
Mould growth
Use solar dryer with
alternative
energy source
Start as early as possible on a
sunny
day and complete drying the
same
day
Chips are rubbery Chips contain high moisture: Make chips of the same size
(3-6
Non-uniform chip sizes mm thick; half thumb nail size)
or
Drying not complete use a chipping machine
Problem What are the causes How is the problem
corrected?
Packaging or bags that allow
in
moisture during storage Start as early as possible on
a sunny
day and complete drying on
same
day
Use strong plastic bags that
are
water proof
Bad or fermented smell Micro growth Drying thoroughly until brittle
Insufficient drying hence
high
moisture content in product
Orange coloration lost in the Over exposure of roots or Chip and dry as quickly as
chips possible
orange-fleshed varieties to air and light during
chipping
and drying Ideally use an enclosed
dryer, such
Using clear or transparent as a solar dryer
bags
Use black bags for storage

Weevils and rodents Storing chips or flour on Pack chips and flour in strong
ground plastic
Bushy surrounding bags
Store packed chips and flour
in
cartoons on racks or raised
surface
Ensure storage area is free of
pests
and rodents
Clear area around store

Burnt or charred chips Drying temperature too high Control drying temperature
Case study

Ekinyu Eugene heads the Abuket sweet potato processor group, a farmers group
based in Soroti,
Uganda. Ekinyu has been growing and eating sweet potatoes since childhood. His
desire to turn sweet potatoes into an income-generating activity led him to attend
several training sessions on adding value to sweet potatoes, which he and other
farmers received through a Farmer Field School organized by the International
Potato Centre. As a group they identified a market for dried chips in Kenya. Ekinyu
greatly gained from the first sales of orange-fleshed sweet potato chips and he
managed to educate his children in good schools in Kampala.